Knee injury ends Dier’s playing career
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Quit is not a word used by Anna Dier.
She overcame tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee three times, but the fourth time was the last straw.
Dier, a junior guard for the Green Bay Phoenix women’s basketball team, made the tough decision to end her playing career after sustaining a torn ACL in her right knee Dec. 15.
“When I talked to my family, I thought I had dealt with everything I had to deal with, and this happened again,” Dier said. “It was unexpected. If it happened again, I thought it would happen on my left leg again. I feel unlucky in that sense, but I can’t change it.”
Having never sustained an injury before in her playing career, Dier tore her ACL in her left knee as a junior playing on the Algoma girls’ basketball team.
Dier, who helped Algoma win the WIAA Division 4 state championship during her freshman year in 2013, hoped for an injury-free college career at Green Bay.
During a nine-month window in 2017, she tore her ACL in her left knee twice – in January as a freshman and then in October while rehabbing.
“You can’t put into words what she went through to get herself into a position to play Division I college basketball,” Green Bay head coach Kevin Borseth said. “Three knee surgeries and each time she never lost her composure. She took it for what it was and said, ‘I’m going to rehab and get back to play.’ She never once gave up.”
During rehab, Dier said she kept focused with one thing in mind.
“I’ve never been one who likes to quit,” Dier said. “It was a childhood dream of mine, so it made it easier to have that goal in mind and not wanting to give up.”
Her junior season was off to a solid start, averaging 5.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
At Maine Dec. 13, 2019, Dier injured what she thought was her hamstring and left the game in the third quarter.
A doctor cleared her to play two nights later against Marist.
Dier earned the seventh start of her career, but when she pivoted three minutes into the game, she knew something was wrong.
“I went back to the huddle and the whole bench was filled with tears,” Borseth said. “You couldn’t talk to those players because they felt bad for Anna. That was a difficult time for both Anna and the players.”
When Dier returned to Green Bay with her teammates, she saw a team doctor and therapists.
When she went to see Dr. Patrick McKenzie – who is the Packers’ team doctor – he knew instantly Dier had blown out her knee.
Borseth said he was always fearful of anything happening to Dier each time she stepped on the floor.
“The fact she had gotten through and played some games at length for us this year, we thought it was behind her,” Borseth said.
Dier defied the odds of getting back on the court after what could have been three career-ending surgeries.
Only one professional athlete in the four major sports has ever come back from three ACL surgeries – Thomas Davis, currently a linebacker for the Los Angeles Chargers, blew out his right ACL three times but has enjoyed a 15-year career in the NFL.
“To be able to come back and perform the way she did during the course of the beginning of the season was phenomenal,” Borseth said. “The kid worked her way into the starting lineup after three knee surgeries – that speaks volumes about her.”
Borseth said he has never seen an athlete like Dier with the mental drive to overcome so much.
“But then again there aren’t many Anna Diers in the world,” he said.
Dier said she is happy she got to live out a dream and play Division I basketball for nearly 2½ seasons.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” said Dier, who underwent knee surgery Jan. 9. “I’m grateful for the people I’ve met along the way and all the different experiences it’s given me and the lessons it’s taught me. I wouldn’t trade any of it.”
With her playing days over, Dier said she is hoping to go into coaching in the future.
She earned her undergraduate degree in early childhood in 2019 in three years.
This coming May, Dier will graduate with her master’s degree in applied leadership of education.
She said she’d like to teach younger kids – preschool, kindergarten or first grade – but coach basketball at the high school level.
“She’s going to have a promising career,” Borseth said. “Someone is going to get the best school teacher you’ve ever seen – I promise you. She is educated, a great student and a great leader. She’s going to be a phenomenal teacher.”
According to Borseth, Dier was a great teammate who personifies hard work and determination.
“She is a remarkable kid,” said Borseth. “I don’t think I’ll ever coach another player like Anna Dier. I don’t know if I can put into words what that means, but we’ll miss her.”